Child Care Is Essential:
Increase State Funding for Georgia’s Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) Program
Finding and affording high-quality child care is challenging for most hard-working Georgia families. Childcare and Parent Services (CAPS) is a critical state program that’s helping alleviate financial barriers to child care. CAPS supports early education goals and families participating in the workforce by assisting low-income families with early childcare education costs. While CAPS improves access to child care for many low-income families and allows parents to participate in the workforce, the program only serves an estimated 14% of income-eligible children due to limited funding. Georgia lawmakers have an opportunity to make a historic investment in child care in the FY2024 budget.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an existing child crisis. Thousands of childcare providers closed their businesses, and educators left the industry, causing a dramatic decrease in the supply of providers and a subsequent increase in price. Before the pandemic, CAPS served around 50,000 children annually in Georgia up to the age of 13. In 2021, federal relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act made it possible to increase CAPS enrollment by 10,000 children and cover family fees associated with childcare through the temporary Awarding Child Care Education Scholarship Supplements (ACCESS) initiative.
This federal relief funding is set to end by 2024, which could leave families reeling. Georgia has an opportunity to mitigate these effects by investing an additional $20 million in state funding to maintain the increase in enrollment.
High-quality care is particularly important during the earliest years of a child’s life when the brain is developing most rapidly. Without reliable, safe, and nurturing child care, many parents simply don’t have the capacity to fully provide for their families.
“CAPS is essential for many families struggling to meet child care costs, but without sufficient funding leaves too many children without access to affordable child care. With the federal relief funding set to end in 2024, the state has an opportunity to mitigate the loss of these funds by making a robust investment in CAPS, supporting children, parents, and the state’s economy in the process, ” says Erin Clark, 9to5 Georgia’s childcare organizer.
9to5 member, Ni’Aisha Banks, has four children ages 9, 5, 4, and 3, and currently lives in Savannah, Georgia. When she first started looking for child care, finding an affordable option was virtually impossible, so she turned to Family, Friend, and Neighbor (FFN) care.
In order to be eligible for CAPS, parents and caregivers must participate in 24 hours of “approved activity” (employment, education, or job search), and children must be part of a specific priority group on top of meeting initial income-eligibility requirements. When she first found out about CAPS, Ni’Aisha wasn’t able to apply immediately because she couldn’t participate in the 24 hours of “approved activity” required to qualify since she was busy taking care of her kids.
Eventually, she was able to start working and qualified for CAPS, giving her the opportunity to put her children in the high-quality childcare facilities that her children deserved to be in.
While childcare rates skyrocketed during the pandemic, CAPS and ACCESS allowed Ni’Aisha to continue using childcare services while she worked from home. Due to limited funding, not all families who stood to benefit from childcare assistance in Georgia were able to access these programs. As the end of pandemic relief funding approaches, the number of families served by CAPS is due to drop back toward only 50,000 children served. This is an opportunity for Georgia to join states like Louisiana, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania in making historic investments in child care.
When lawmakers released the current version of the FY 2024 budget last week, it did not include any additional state dollars for child care. Please join us in asking the Georgia General Assembly to include at least $20 million in additional state funding for the CAPS Program in the FY 2024 budget. It’s crucial that our leaders hear from us now. Please use the following action alert to reach out to your legislators and share why it’s important to you that they invest in child care.
Interested in joining 9to5 GA’s child care work? Learn more at https://actionnetwork.org/forms/join-the-child-care-movement-w-9to5-ga